Those who would farm the wind

One with the head of a crocodile, one wearing the fresh skin of a newborn just beginning to lose its glow, one in a trench coat and shoes black and shiny enough to confuse the moon into setting an hour early, one who sniffs and shuffles papers, one with the wings of small bats neatly folded into the clean and green coffin of his pocket, one who claps loudly at inappropriate junctures, one with an extruded plastic handshake and a business card printed with the wrong email, one who seeks absolution in the polite smiles of his opponents the birdwatchers and trout fishermen, one who used to be the most powerful senator in the state and now turns his back on the public hearing — the assembled citizenry with their ignorant concerns — to bark into a clam shell too narrow for the sound of surf.

For more objective accounts of the hearing (at which I testified on behalf of Juniata Valley Audubon) see the Altoona Mirror and Centre Daily Times.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

20 Comments


    1. Was that a poem? I didn’t mean it to be! Glad you liked it though (and sorry I overlooked your comment until now–i was in a mad rush this morning).

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  1. Now what am I to do? I sort of feel like saying “You goddamn son-of-a-bitch, why do you do this to me!”. I know you’re not doing it, but still. Thanks for this — I guess.

    What’s the opposite of a dilettante? A grievante, mourner? I seem to lack a requisite fierceness. I’d so much rather shop goddamn lawnmowers and savor the melancholy of regret.

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  2. this sums up what i hate about the current environmental arguments, so often biodiversity is dismissed (or downright destroyed) as we develop ‘green’ energy to fuel our unsustainable lifestyles…..

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    1. Right on. Lord preserve the environment from the environmentalists.

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  3. Apologies for my outburst which I had hoped would read as color. I’m crazy about your mother too, so doubly sorry.

    Just how much of this sort of thing can a person handle? Obviously in my case not very much. But I’m glad that you can, even though your fierce witness really does bring me pain that I really don’t know what to do with. This video is like a bomb. Why so much more moving than roadkill? Think of all the roadkill video footage that could be made. (Where are the auteurs?) You are a warrior for your hills and your birds. My insults are like those from an alcoholic reacting to a friend who points out that he’s been drinking to much. Since stopping drinking isn’t in the realm of the possible, frustration gives way to anger. In my case I hope you understood, that it was a kind of mock anger, but the frustration and confusion is real.

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    1. Bill, your apology is appreciated, but really I must thank you for the honesty and candor of your remarks. (Don’t worry about my mom — we watch the Daily Show together, she can handle salty language!) The really sad part is that we’ve been sold a real bill of goods on wind energy. Unless and until they develop an effective way to store the energy generated by wind turbines, they will do little to reduce our dependence on coal, nuclear, and hydro, because those more reliable sources will need to be amped up to buffer the grid. Democrats are currently taking two steps forward and three back on clean energy, even ignoring the impact on biodiversity. Real solutions aren’t being proferred by anyone in a position of power because they require cut-backs and compromises. The alcoholic analogy is appropriate because the fossil-fueled consumer economy is very much like a party that’s winding down, and no one wants to think about how badly our heads are going to hurt the next morning.

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    2. Good point about roadkill, too. Highways are not only death traps but also nooses, choking off isolated populations of herps and small mammals and fragmenting avian habitat. You know I don’t have a car and have taken an active role in fighting new highways in our region, so no one can accuse me of a double standard.

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  4. Here’s an example of the forest destruction, degradation, and fragmentation at PA’s largest windplant, the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, near Blue Knob, south of Altoona. That windplant now has close to 100 turbines and 20+ miles of heavy-duty roadway. Gamesa groupie and “consulting forester” Mike Barton proudly says “The roads of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm have opened up previously inaccessible parts of this remote watershed, helping landowners to get their forest products to market.”

    http://www.jvas.org/cc_forest_impact_ar_wndplnt.html

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    1. Thanks, Stan. That’s a point that can’t be made often enough, really. Horrific as the bird and bat deaths are, it’s really the fragmentation of our last intact interior forest habitats that makes the prospect of wind turbines on all our ridges such a nightmare. But trying to convince people who’ve never heard of habitat fragmentation that it’s even a problem is like, uh, pissing in the wind.

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  5. I don’t know what to do to ratchet down the anxiety that drives this party. It is anxiety too, I think, far more than greed: this feels obsessive-compulsive to me, the need for more, more, always more, we’ll be happy sometime when we just have more.

    No, man, you’ll be happy when you give up on that kind of happy. But how often can I even hear that myself? I feel like that poor raptor, sometimes :-)

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    1. Anxiety and insecurity, yes, borne of the destruction of authentic communal life and alienation from the land. That is my sense of things too.

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  6. Oh NO! No no no! Oh how can one turn the clock back and stop such things from happening. That was just heartrending.

    A few weeks ago I found a full-grown buzzard dead under a power line on the edge of our property. The line carries electricity to our house. i think the buzzard must have come through the grown-out hedge and not seen the wires before clipping two of them with outstretched wings. Now we’re to have the hedge re-laid. Then the power-lines will be more apparent and hopefully there will be no more accidents like the one that killed this magisterial bird. I love living in the countryside, but the daily tragedies of the creatures around us sometimes leave me gasping. Nature takes no hostages.

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    1. I am not entirely sure what “having the hedge re-laid” entails, but it sounds terribly British — and the right thing to do if it saves raptors.

      Many years ago, when we were kids, one of us found a dead great-horned owl that had had the misfortune to hit two electric lines at once. At that time it was still legal for taxidermists to work on non-game species without a permit, so we got a mount of it and kept it on top of the old pump organ in the living room for many years. The yellow glass eyes seemed to follow one around the room, which apparently traumatized a couple of my younger cousins.

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  7. Dave, to ‘lay’ a hedge is to take a boundary planted with saplings and to cut and manipulate them to the diagonal, stake them and then inter-weave them to make a field enclosure. This is how we construct the mixed deciduous ‘hedges’ that are a defining characteristic of so much of the British countryside. Gradually the growth starts upwards again, through the diagonals to create a really dense hedge. Established hedges can be hundreds of years old and they’ve historically made a fantastic contribution to the wildlife habitat in our countryside, particularly for birds. But laying them is a dying skill, and the modern farmer wanting an instant stock-proof enclosure all too often resorts to post and wire, which is a habitat for nothing. Hedges also require maintenance, needing to be regularly cut and shaped. When allowed to grow wild they stop being hedges and turn into tree-lines. I’d never thought about this with regard to the US. Do you not have field hedges? When we moved to Ty Isaf three years ago we planted six hundred mixed plants to make boundary hedges to replace the existing long-past-their-best post and wire fences. We put in guelder-rose, hornbeam, hazel, beech, holly and many, many more species. They’ll be due for laying in a few years time and then we’ll have added another habitat for the wildlife here.

    I think that ‘Those Who Would Farm the Wind’ is a beautifully poetic turn of phrase, and I may come back at you one day to request the loan of it (credited of course) for use as a title for a painting!

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    1. I had read about this practice, but never would’ve associated such artful interweaving with the verb “lay,” so thanks for the explanation, which I’m sure other readers will appreciate as well. Good for you! Sounds like a massive amount of work, though. I don’t think that custom ever took root here, but American small farms did used to include many messier affairs — hedgerows — between their fields. With the consolidation of properties into corporate farms starting in the 1950s, and the advent of so-called clean farming (like “clean and green,” another creepy and misleading use of the word “clean”) hedgerows have become increasingly scarce, and with them a great deal of wildlife, including wild bees whose pollination services have generally been disregarded until the crisis with colony collapse disorder among commercially raised Italian honeybees in the last few years. (Just about every loss in biodiversity has an economic impact sooner or later, doesn’t it?)

      You are of course welcome to the title, and I’d be honored.

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      1. I should add that in North American parlance, “hedge” tends to refer almost exclusively to the decorative, trimmed borders around homes or commercial establishments, almost invariably comprised of nonnative shrub species: privet, boxwood, yew, etc.

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